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Digital advertising platforms are exploding. Marketing dollars are flooding into online advertising channels at an amazing rate.

But not just any online ad channel will work for your business’s next campaign. Without a plan, you could waste precious ad spend dollars on ineffective marketing.

This is your guide to picking the right digital advertising platforms to suit your business and your marketing campaign.

Choosing the Right Digital Advertising Platforms

The key to effective digital advertising is to be where your customers are. There’s no point chasing trends that don’t benefit your bottom line. If you’re marketing ad spend is going to advertising channels where your customers don’t spend time, it’s money down the drain.

In this guide, you’ll learn the importance and opportunities of five of today’s top digital advertising platforms — search, display, mobile, social, and video. Search and display advertising are the foundation for many business strategies. Mobile is likewise becoming increasingly important. And, for the right opportunity, social media and video advertising can be very rewarding.

But before you decide on your next campaign strategy, it’s important to get up to speed on each platform.

Search Advertising

Search advertising (AKA paid search, search engine marketing (SEM), and pay-per-click (PPC) advertising) is the process of buying advertising on search engines. The process is largely automated with search advertising software, and the strategy is often used in combination with search engine optimization (SEO) and organic search marketing strategies.

Search ads are generally purchased by advertisers based on relevant keywords and are shown to a search user after that user includes that keyword in their search query. Ads can also be bought and placed across a search engine’s search network (a group of partner websites that lets advertisers cast a broader net with their search ads).


Qualified Leads – Search advertising puts your product in front of your prospects when they are already looking for it. Done right, search ads produce a higher click-through rate and more qualified leads.

Actionable Data – Because search ads are processed through software such as Google AdWords, advertisers benefit from a mountain of data that can be used to refine your search campaigns and better improve your performance.

Cost – Search advertising remains popular because it’s one of the most cost-effective online marketing strategies there is. Since ads are PPC, you only pay when a prospect clicks on your ad. You won’t pay for ads that are seen but not clicked. Plus many keywords still have a cost-per-click (CPC) that’s under a dollar.

Personalization – Modern PPC advertising can target your likely buyers even beyond their first keyword search and ad click. People-based marketing and remarketing strategies can let you re-engage with your audience around the web, increasing the likelihood of a conversion.


Search Volume – Keyword targeting allows you to put your product in front of someone searching for that product. But not all keywords have equal search volume. You may find that either no one is searching for your desired keyword, or that everyone is searching for it, which will mean your CPC will be higher.

Product Awareness – Not all products will be suited for a search ad campaign. A low keyword search volume may clue you in that your brand, product, or service isn’t on most search users’ radar. An awareness campaign may be in order before investing in search.

Product Types – Another consideration is that not all products and services are suited to search advertising’s “ready-to-buy” pace. The urgency of a buyer’s search for a tow truck or plumber will be different than that of a buyer searching for local raw milk or a disc golf league.

Shifting Currents – There are a lot of moving parts in a search campaign, meaning that one piece changing affects the rest of your system. New trends like people-based marketing, mobile-first web design, and a shift towards product listing ads over keyword ads will impact your campaigns.

Ideal Use Cases

Search ads come in several varieties.

Google text ads appear above organic search results for the same keyword. In this “car insurance” example from Google, the ads are only differentiated from the organic search results by the “Ad” label next to each advertising URL. Text ads work for a wide variety of products and services, either B2B or B2C, but will do best when you can focus on sharp copywriting, a special offer, value-adding information, or brand recognition.

Credit: Screenshot via Google.

Product listing ads (PLAs) combine visuals with text and are set apart from the rest of the organic search results. PLAs are identified as ads by the “Sponsored” label above the content block. PLAs work best for products and merchandise and copy the look of organic e-commerce search results. If your product can compete on price, quality, design, brand recognition, or positive customer reviews, PLAs may be a good option for you.

Credit: Screenshot via Google.

Some search results will feature both text ads and product listing ads together.

Credit: Screenshot via Google.

Specific Platforms for Search Advertising

Search advertising targets top search engines such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo, where advertisers can place their product in front of people who are already looking for it.

In today’s marketplace, search matters. Experts put the number of searches just on Google alone at 5.5 billion, per day, every day. Research shows that more than 70% of B2C consumer purchase decisions start with a search engine, and 93% of B2B buying decisions start with a search.

Display Advertising

Display advertising is the process of buying ad space on third-party websites for your brand, products, or services. Advertisers use display advertising software to target, buy, manage and track their ads and campaigns. This can be done through ad networks with a wide reach, such as Google AdSense, or natively through a website’s own ad system. Along with search ads, display ads are one of the top choice for online advertisers.

Display ads run across websites that have opted to monetize their content by selling ad space. There’s a large variety of possibilities, but commonly display ads appear at the top of a web page, the bottom of a page, in a sidebar area, or interspersed between content blocks.


Versatility – You can run a display ad that’s a banner — a static visual with text — that’s not unlike an ad you’d see in a newspaper or magazine. But you can also opt for rich media ads — with graphic animations, looping video clips with or without sound, and interactive ads that expand with a mouse hover or click.

Brand Awareness – Much like advertising on a roadside billboard or bus shelter, online display ads help drive brand awareness. Online display ads are more targeted, such that a hiking website serves up ads that would appeal to hikers.

Retargeting – Display ads also allow advertisers to take advantage of retargeting marketing. Because a user has recently visited your website, the display ad software may serve up your product or brand ads on other websites, which can serve as a reminder than increases conversions.

High Volume – Websites that typically offer up ad space do so because they get a lot of traffic. Some large websites get millions of visitors per month. All of those visitors are your potential customers, particularly when the software matches your ad with high relevancy websites and web users.

High Visibility – Even though website visitors may not have thought about your product or services — either because they’re unaware of your brand, or they’re even outside of your demographic — they still might be shown your display ad. This gives you some of the highest visibility available on the web.


Ad Avoidance – As more and more advertising moves online, web users are getting saturated with ads — and many tune out. Another 40% of laptop users and 33% of desktop users are now using ad blocking tools. Mobile ad blocking adoption is only 15%, however.

Lower CTR – While display ads are a great tool for awareness, they’re less of a driver of clicks and conversions. Display advertising suffers from a lower click-through rate (CTR) than search ads, as well as lower conversions. This is probably because search ads are shown when a prospect is ready to buy, and display ads are not.

Ad Fraud – Online bots can also have a negative impact on online display advertising performance, by costing advertisers false impressions and skewing click metrics. However, most bots are now focused on video, leaving display ads relatively unscathed.

Ideal Use Cases

Display advertising has many applications online. It’s found on many different types of websites, from news outlets to recipe sites. Display ads can also appear on mobile or video, though we’ll cover those examples later.

The most common display ads are banner ads that appear at the top of a page above page content or to the right side of content.

Multiple ads for different products and companies on the same page, as on this Fast Company article example, are common. Note this article about a mattress company has cushion and mattress ads.

Credit: Screenshot via Fast Company.

Display ads can often be used at the end of a piece of content. This is particularly true for news websites.

Credit: Screenshot via The Los Angeles Times.

This New York Post ad for eyeglasses is placed in the middle of a sports story.

Credit: Screenshot via New York Post.

The same New York webpage has a sidebar ad targeted to us Michigan residents.

Credit: Screenshot via New York Post.

Even a popup for more content contains an auto ad on this website.

Credit: Screenshot via New York Post.

Specific Display Advertising Platforms

Display advertising can be done through a number of ad network platforms, some with a broad reach, others with a narrower but deeper reach into niche target markets. Another option for advertisers is to skip the middleman and buy advertising directly through a website’s own ad program. This can be a good choice for local or niche businesses.

The top display advertising platform is without a doubt Google’s AdSense Network. The reach your business can achieve through this program is staggering. There are more than 2 million AdSense publishers, and data show that Google display ads reach as many as 90% of all internet users, leading to 4 billion clicks that resulted in e-commerce store visits.

Still, there are other choices, Adsterra, Ad Maven, Adbuff, and more among them. But you’ll need to do your homework as some ad placements may work against you.

Mobile advertising

Mobile advertising, as the name implies, involves advertising on mobile devices, such as smartphones, tablets, and even wearable technology. This is an ad platform that is growing, as more and more people are spending more and more time on their mobile devices. Special mobile ad software is used to buy, manage, and track mobile advertising, and ads on mobile come in many forms, including search ads, display ads, video, social, and even in-app ads and SMS text messaging.

Advertisers can target exclusively mobile segments of ad networks on search and display platforms to reach mobile users. However, the largest growth sector for mobile ads is for advertising within mobile applications. These can appear as banner or interstitial popup ads, sized down from desktop proportions, or they can be part of a larger strategy that may even involve creating an app for your brand.


Growth Opportunities – There are big growth opportunities to be had for mobile advertisers. In 2018, more than a third of advertising spend went to mobile, eclipsing the media dominance of network television advertising. Experts predict that mobile share will grow to more than 47% of total ad spend by 2022.

Less Ad Blocking – Ad blocking software is popular with many computer users, with adoption as high as 40% among all US laptop users. However, there’s considerably less ad blocking on mobile devices. Only 15% of US smartphone users and 8% of tablet users block ads.

Immediacy – If you send an SMS message or in-app notification ad to prospects, you can be confident most will see it right away. Mobile users spend an average of 145 minutes on their phones every day and 90% check text message notifications within 3 minutes.

Affordability – Mobile ads remain a fairly affordable choice for advertisers. Android banner ads have one of the lost cost-per-mille (CPM) for impressions of around $1.25. Overall mobile banner ads are around $1 CPM, compared to desktop ads at $6 for CPM pricing.

Versatility – Another benefit of mobile advertising is its versatility. A brand whose customers are on mobile can reach them with search ads, display ad campaigns, Facebook videos, SMS messaging, and even in-app ads.


Device Variety – With a desktop digital campaign, you only need to think about PC and Mac, Firefox, Chrome, and Safari, and a few standardized screen resolutions. This is not the case with mobile, where there are dozens of devices, screens, and OS combinations. This can limit your creativity when it comes to multi-platform campaigns.

Ad Blocker Adoption – The favorable conditions of the mobile advertising space right now regarding ad blocking adoption is likely to change over the next few years. More and more users will look for ways to block intrusive and unappealing ads. It’s said there are 380 million mobile devices now using ad block, however, keep in mind that’s out of a total of 4.7 billion mobile device users.

Opt-In – In order to market to SMS and custom mobile app consumers, advertisers will need to get them to opt into such marketing. There are regulations governing SMS marketing, and mobile app marketing requires you to build a mobile app and then get your customers to install it on their devices.

Ideal Use Cases

Mobile advertising has a number of applications, but three stand out. The most common mobile ads are display banner ads, interstitial popup ads that fill the screen, and native mobile ads that appear in between non-advertising content.

CPC Strategy gives the following examples of a Beats Music app advertisement that ran in three forms on Facebook.

Credit: Beats Music advertisement graphic via CPC Strategy.

Another multi-format ad was Ubisoft’s banner and interactive video advertisements for the game Assassin’s Creed II that ran inside of the Tapulous Tap Tap Revenge game. The advertiser reports the banner ads generated some interest, but it was the interactive video ad that drove clicks and conversions.

Credit: Ubisoft Assassin’s Creed II advertisement graphic via

Finally, another kind of in-app ad worth mentioning is the location-based ad. Starbucks multi-function app that lets customers order, pay, earn rewards, and shop online is a good example. The Starbucks app can send location-based coupons and alerts such as this one to consumers near a franchise location.

Credit: Starbucks app graphic by Jim Machi via

Specific Platforms for Mobile Advertising

Since mobile is newer, there’s more variety when it comes to choosing a specific ad platform. You could go with the big players. Google, the maker of the Android device operating system, offers developer tools for mobile ads, in addition to its Google Search ad offerings. Facebook, the leading social media networking platform, is another top destination for mobile ads.

Other top options include AppLovin, a marketing firm specializing in in-app campaigns, and AdColony, a mobile video marketing specialist. Still more options include Swvre, Localytics, and CleverTap.

Social Advertising

Social advertising is the process of advertising on social media through social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Advertising opportunities are available primarily on the social networks with the most established and biggest user audiences. Ads can be bought, managed, and tracked through the social networks own software or with third-party tools.

Ad placements typically appear in the post feed, among native content posts, or as banner ads in a sidebar. Ad formats vary from platform to platform, but commonly advertisers will create sponsored content or promoted posts that consist of visual or multimedia posts with a strong, concise call to action.

Social networking is an important part of the online experience for modern consumers. Social proof of brands, products, and services are highly valued in buying decisions, and gaining visibility on the social media channels where your customers spend time can be a key to attracting new business.


Consumer Data – Social media is prized by advertisers for its deep insight into consumer demographics. Social media users supply a large amount of data about themselves to social networks, which can make for a more enriching user experience for users as well as better ad targeting for businesses.

Targeting – Speaking of targeting, social media big data means that advertisers can target highly specific buyer personas. You could target people by age, gender, and education who like a particular book, or people with specific jobs, hobbies, locations, and more.

Reach – Millions of people around the world use social media every day. About 214 million people in the US now use Facebook, while 133 million US professionals are on LinkedIn. Within these large audiences, businesses can target demographics interested in their products and services.

Retargeting – Another benefit of social media is the ability to retarget your existing prospects. With the use of social media tracking pixels or just your email list, you may be able to serve your ad up to interested leads who have visited your website recently or interacted with your brand.

Engagement – Social advertising gives advertisers an opportunity to engage their customers in conversations, feedback exchange, customer service, reviews, and more. It’s a unique two-way communication not available in other forms of advertising.


Analytics – Analytics for display and search campaigns are thought to be more reliable and trustworthy than those for social advertising, which have run into bugs and errors. In part, this is because social advertising is newer and quite different from other ad platforms.

Competitive Field – Social advertising is a competitive field, crowded with lots of companies vying for the attention of social media users — one survey put the figure as high as 88%. The best sponsored and promoted content gets the most views, which means more work for advertisers.

Networking Downsides – More recently, some social media platforms have faced a backlash from their users over privacy concerns, censorship issues, transparency, or general social media burnout. While users and advertisers continue to benefit from social media, such issues may require awareness and vigilance on the part of advertisers.

Attention Requirements – Finally, another challenge of social advertising is the bandwidth required to make a campaign successful. Though many posts on social media are only a few hundred characters long, timing, graphics, iteration, interaction, and other chores can soak up a lot of time. Dedicated resources are needed to make the most of social ad opportunities.

Ideal Use Cases

Social advertising on Facebook can target social media users by demographics, such as age, gender, location, and interests. In this ad, Wired Magazine creates a sponsored post to promote content. Facebook ads appear within the user’s post feed among original content posts.

Credit: Screenshot via Facebook.

Facebook also allows video advertisements on their platform, such as this ad from Starbucks. This ad uses a social connection which has “liked” Starbucks on Facebook to introduce the sponsored content ad.

Credit: Screenshot via Facebook.

Twitter is another platform for social advertising. Promoted tweets appear in the feed alongside regular tweets. Users can reply, retweet, and favorite promoted tweets as well as click on the image card to be taken to’s landing page.

Credit: Screenshot via Twitter.

Twitter users can also use hashtags and mentions in their promoted tweets. Visuals can be made to seem more clickable by designing the visual asset to look more like a call-to-action button as Fusebill has done here.

Credit: Screenshot via Twitter.

Specific Platforms for Social Advertising

Social advertising is available on a wide variety of social networks. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest, are probably the most popular choices for reaching consumer audiences. LinkedIn offers great opportunities to reach professional B2B decision makers.

There are many other niche social media platforms to consider, depending on your intended user demographic audience. Social advertising works great in combination with other digital advertising platforms as part of an overall digital marketing strategy.

Video Advertising

Video advertising is the practice of using video content to promote products, services, or brands on third-party websites. The process of buying, managing, and tracking ads online is largely streamlined and automated with the help of video advertising software. Video ads can work well as part of a comprehensive digital advertising strategy, helping to improve brand awareness as well as contribute to higher conversions and sales.

Video ads can be paired with other video content, running as linear pre-, mid-, or post-roll ads a bit like online TV commercials. However, video advertising can also come in nonlinear forms, either as an overlay of the full screen or a smaller banner that plays at the same time as a piece of video content. Video ads can also run as video banner ads on non-video web content pages such as articles and blog posts.


High Engagement – Video advertising is highly engaging. The completion rate for video ad views is now as high as 83%. One-third of online consumer time is spent on video. The average conversion rate for sites using video is 4.8% compared to 2.9% without, and the average user also spends 88% more time on a website with video.

High ROI – About 85% of companies using video ads find it successful, and 51% of all marketers say video now has the best ROI. Video has now been shown to increase organic traffic from SERPs, increase landing page conversions and rankings, and generate more social shares.

Video Growth – About 87% of online marketers are now using video. Millions of minutes of video are watched every day. Video traffic made up 69% of global consumer web traffic in 2017 and is expected to account for 80% by 2019.

Versatility – Video is another digital advertising medium that benefits from versatility. As more content consumption shifts to mobile, so does video consumption. Social media is another area where video reigns supreme. This gives advertisers a variety of ways to use video to reach their audiences.


Creation – One of the downsides of video advertising is that you need to create a video first before you can advertise with it. This takes a higher level of production efforts and resources than any of the above advertising platforms.

Cost – Barriers to entry are falling, but the cost of equipment or hiring a production company to create your video ad is still too pricey for some. There’s also the fact that you may need a whole series of video ads, not just one. And cost-per-mille (CPM) ad rates aren’t cheap, ranging from $0.50 to more than $20.

Ideal Use Cases

The most common use of video advertising is on video content websites, such as Youtube. This Wix video advertisement is a linear pre-roll video ad that plays before Adele’s “Someone Like You” music video loads. The formatting features a coordinated sidebar banner ad with a prominent call-to-action button.

Credit: Screenshot via YouTube.

Another variation on the same ad format includes a clickable call-to-action right on the video player itself, in this case for Hulu.

Credit: Screenshot via YouTube.

Video ads can also be nonlinear, that is, not appearing alongside other video content. This is the case with this Michelob ad that appears as a leaderboard banner ad on the Epicurious recipe website.

Credit: Screenshot via Epicurious.

Specific Platforms for Video Advertising

Video is available on a variety of digital advertising platforms. Large video platforms, such as Youtube, Hulu, and Netflix, are some of the top destinations for advertisers. However, almost any website could be a home for video advertising. Social media is also a top choice for advertisers, particularly Facebook. Other video advertising can be run through specific video ad networks, such as Selectmedia, BrightRoll, and more.


You have many options when it comes to digital advertising platforms. Picking the right platforms to suit your business and your marketing campaign is crucial. Not only is it important to go where your customers are, but it’s also important to get the most out of your ad spend in terms of ROI.

Lastly, when you’re determining the right advertising platforms for your next campaign, don’t forget to think about the other piece of the puzzle — your website.

Your website is the destination for all your digital marketing advertisements — whether search, display, mobile, social, or video. If your website isn’t mobile-friendly or hasn’t been updated in a while, you may want to consider web development work, such as a website refresh or redesign, in combination with a digital advertising campaign. A coordinated strategy is the best way to maximize your ROI and take your business to the next level.

See how Kaleidico can help you build the website you want, at the price you want. Give us a call at 313-338-9515 or email to learn how our full-service digital agency can help with all your website needs.

Bill Rice
About Bill Rice
Bill Rice is the Founder & CEO of Kaleidico. Bill is an expert in designing online lead generation strategies and programs. Kaleidico blends web design, development, SEO, PPC, content marketing, and email marketing to generate leads for mortgage lenders, law firms, fintech, and other businesses looking to grow a consumer-direct online strategy.